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Giants, Virgin, Stars, Hills and Bonus Miles

So in 2013 we launched White Star Running and our first races were the Giants Head Marathon and Sydling Hill race

So after mucho faffing we created a route so the story is pretty well known but its explained in the interview I did for Bad Boy Running podcast listen here

Then a few years ago, I read the autobiography of Richard Branson. We were celebrating our wedding anniversary in Cuba and I had run out of things to read, and it was the only book in the hotel library that wasn’t 50 Shades of Grey in German. It was a revelation (Branson’s book, not 50 Shades). And so White Star Running is the company I created: a running events company, organising races in beautiful parts of Dorset and Wiltshire, from distances of 10km up to marathon distance and beyond.

My first idea was to organise an event in a lovely part of Dorset called Sydling St Nicholas. Sydling is the archetypal Dorset village; in a deep valley, it’s a farming village and not on the Dorset tourist trail. It doesn’t even have a shop. The area is hilly, very hilly. We approached the parish council and Sydling with the idea and, although cautious about our intentions, we convinced them to let us rent the village hall and use the village green as a finish area.

Next, we needed a route. This is where the fun started. Marathons are normally 26.2 miles, but with a trail race this is exceptionally hard to achieve, so we started off declaring “this is marathon distance-ish”. Even the 10k turned out to be 11km. We started work on the maps and I sat down with a bottle of rum and wrote down all the things I …

  1. Loved about races
  2. Hated about races
  3. Thought would make the perfect race

I realised early on that one runner’s perfect race is another runner’s nightmare, so we tried to create the most “Dorsety” race we could. On the list were great scenery, a sense of humour, great medals, camaraderie, camping, pre- and post-race food.

The Giants Head marathon was born – an exceptionally hilly trail race in and around the Cerne Abbas Giant area of Dorset. The first race in 2013 was a great success, despite problems with people falling over, pregnant cows and naked farmers. It was voted the third best marathon in the UK by Runners World, and we were shortlisted for the Running Awards best marathon, beaten only by the massive city events of London, Manchester and the like.

London, Manchester and the like. In June 2014, we refined the Giants Head Marathon, with our “lovestation” at 20 miles. What started as a joke has become an essential at all our events: it’s basically a normal runners water/aid station, but with cider, cakes, homemade fruit vodka, water melon and our mates from the old Runners World forum, Poole and Blandford parkruns and local running clubs to look after the runners.

We also have free race photos: something that was top of our pet hates list was the fact you had to pay £10 at races for a picture of yourself looking a mess, so we provided good snappers and semi-professional photographers for free, and asked anyone else at the race to share their photos on social media.

In December 2014, we achieved an unexpected accolade. Runners World magazine voted us the best marathon in Britain, beating all the big city ones including London, Bournemouth and Brighton. Not bad for its second year!

So what is it then? The Giants Head marathon is a very hilly trail race in the Cerne Abbas and Sydling Valleys in central Dorset

It starts and finishes in Sydling St. Nicholas and runs over 10 big hills and back again…its tough and hot

The fastest time was by Martin Lewis in 3.29 hes a 2.30 marathon runner….!

The 10k which is 11km but whos counting? Follows the same route as the marathon but diverts off into the valley to the finish at 10k mark…its 11km get over it

But you get the two hills its known for concrete road at mile one and Jackmans cross at mile 3

If you camp there’s a barn dance and food and good time

See you lot soon


Andy Palmer

Race Director White Star Running Ltd.

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